Roadkill Rivals places 2-4 players in endless stretches of highway that cross the Southwest U.S., where they will compete to score the most points by turning desert animals into roadkill. It's got a silly theme, although not for the squeamish, a simple and straightforward ruleset, and takes less than 30 minutes to play. It's solid as a filler game but doesn't have enough depth to be anything more than that.
What is Roadkill Rivals?
The setup of Roadkill Rivals is simple enough. Deal 4 cards face up to the middle of the table, called The Freeway. That's it, and you're done. The cards themselves are simple too. There are simply three different types: Vehicles, Animals, and Roadside. Animals are worth points when scored, vehicles are used to score animals, and roadside cards are the specials—it's a card game, so of course, there are special cards. Again, simple and straightforward. You'll probably spend more time shuffling than you will explain the rules and setting up Roadkill Rivals, and that's always a good thing for a filler game. As players add cards to their hands, their hands are actually face-up, too, so the game is less about hidden information, unlike most card games, and more about predicting what your opponents will do.
On their turn, each player will take one of four different actions:
- Take a card from the Freeway (and draw a new card to replace it).
- Create roadkill to score points: combine a vehicle card with animal card(s) with an equal or lower value and place them in your discard pile.
- Wreck an opponent's vehicle (using a 5 or 6-value vehicle in your hand to discard a smaller vehicle in their hand).
- Attack an animal (using a Rattle or Coyote in your hand to discard an animal in an opponent's hand).
This sort of action selection is one of my favorite game mechanics—right after simultaneous action selection and asymmetry. Sadly, it falls a bit flat in Roadkill Rivals. Half of the actions are unavailable if you don't have the specific cards they require, and of course, only the draw action is available if you don't have any cards. Furthermore, often the best action is painfully obvious—did the Lottery Ticket appear on the Freeway? There's almost never a reason not to take it.
This flaw is further exacerbated when playing a 2-player, as a player who manages a point lead can completely shut down his opponent by using a large vehicle or a deadly animal to attack his opponent each turn. The other player has no recourse until one of the few cards that could save him show up on the Freeway. The end game is a bit weak as well, as the game ends when the last card is drawn, and players score any points in their hands.
A Few Strong Points
That isn't to say that Roadkill Rivals fails overall. There are certainly times when it shines. Deciding whether to score something right now, or instead taking a good card to setup up something for the next turn, or spending your action to attack an opponent—these decisions are what make the game. The hidden score piles help, too, as unless you're writing down scores as people create roadkill, you can't be certain who is leading and, thus, who it might be advantageous to attack.
A few tweaks could really go a long way to improving Roadkill Rivals, as it isn't fundamentally flawed but merely lacks a bit of polish. Making the attack cards worth fewer points, or even negative points, making the end of the game variable (a game over card shuffled into the bottom few cards), and some rule changes for 2-players would improve it greatly.
Is Roadkill Rivals Worth Your Money?
Roadkill Rivals isn't bad, but it's not quite good, either. Some tweaks (whether from house rules or some further development) could take it from a "disposable filler game" to one with some solid replay value. It's only really worth your investment if you're into the stupid theme and you want something simple and fast-paced while still being fun. On the other hand, if you need depth from your games, then you will probably end up going away from this one unsatisfied, so probably give it a miss and try out Catan or something instead.
The copy of Roadkill Rivals used in this review was provided by the designer. This review was originally published on 09-04-2015. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions and for historical context.